Original Cartoons since 1998.

Login

Fred Seibert's Blog

Archive for September, 2007


A Marv Newland/Frederator short.

September 29th, 2007

Marv Newland

Writing about filmmaker Marv Newland several times over the past year got us in phone touch for the first time in the 21st Century and spawned a few joint projects I’ll be telling you about sometime.

The first is a short film*, Marv’s (and Frederator’s) natural medium. Over the past six months or so Marv’s been sending us from his trips around the world (the one above’s from Hollywood). And in addition to the obvious –our New York address– there’s a cartoon embedded on the left, animated to a hot 1920’s Joe Venuti soundtrack.

Stay tooned.

*Update: Marv’s film is now officially titled “Postalolio” and will be featured in international film festivals throughout 2009; I’ll post the schedule as it becomes booked.

DreamWorks Animation Enlists Ex-Chief of Viacom

September 26th, 2007

Tom Freston

Congratulations to our friend Tom Freston, the newest member of the Dreamworks Animation board of directors.

How Beijing Olympics Got Its Logo.

September 26th, 2007

beijing-olympic3

(via Emil Rensing)

My week in Hollywood 1.3.

September 25th, 2007

Nickelodeon Studios

Back to my week. By the way, I don’t want to leave the wrong impression here. My average week is no busier than anyone trying to keep their productions and businesses going. But, for those who wondering…

Thursday, September 20, 2007

I wanted to get this picture from the Nicktoons Studios up. It doesn’t have much to do with the post other than I took it during my trip and it reminds me of the evolution of even the best cartoon shows.

Kent Rice is the new CEO of Starz Entertainment (formerly IDT Entertainment), so he now represents our major production partner on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! We’d met briefly in New York but I wanted us to get to know each other better, so we met for breakfast at the Graciela, my home away from home, and coincidentally Kent’s too when he first started working in LA.

jamesbrown3.jpg

On my way over to Sherman Oaks for an early lunch meeting, I called into a conference call with Dan Meth, Jeaux Janovsky, Eric Homan, and Carrie Miller about the show packaging for our impending weekly launch of the Meth Minute 39. As usual, we don’t all agree on everything, but I think there’s a solution everyone’s happy with in the end.

Peter Lee
Peter Lee is in the LA office of Boston’s Prism VentureWorks. We met for lunch to give me my perspective on Next New Networks and Channel Frederator.

Barney Saltzberg
Over the hill from the Valley into West Hollywood to meet author/singer Barney Saltzberg at the Urth Cafe. Barney and I met about 10 years ago and like each other’s work a lot. As with others, we keep struggling to find stuff to do together and haven’t licked it yet.

Damien Somerset
I didn’t leave my seat for the next meeting, this time on Next New Networks business again with Damien Somerset, the creator/producer of Zaproot, our cool new green show on Viropop. We’d only met briefly before, and in case I haven’t made it clear, I really like getting to know the people with whom I’m doing things. Damien’s a nice, smart, talented guy.

Bad Robot Productions home page
East on Melrose are the Paramount Studios and the production offices of J.J. AbramsBad Robot Productions. We’re starting work on a movie and this meeting was the first time we’d met in person. Later on, Bryan Burke, JJ’s longtime producer and collaborator, and I had a great first dinner on the Sunset Strip.

Friday
Art's Deli
Art’s Deli for a turkey sandwich for JetBlue, and home to New York.

My week in Hollywood 1.2.

September 24th, 2007

IMG00018
Tuesday night, September 18, 2007
Eric, Kevin and I went right from our feature meeting with Doug TenNapel to the last screening for Random! Cartoons, featuring Doug’s Squirly Town, Karl Toerge & Jim Wyatt’s Ratzafratz, and 6 Monsters. We’ve now screened all 39 Random! shorts for the LA studio (as well as a New York ASIFA screening in May), and it’s sad they’re over, everyone did such a great job on their films. Nickelodeon’s been having a hard time scheduling an air date, so in the meanwhile we’ll do with the good feelings from our private screenings.

June Foray's birthday
Karl and Jim prepped a great surprise for their honored guest June Foray when they pulled out a cake for her 90th birthday. My pictures weren’t too great, but they capture some of the wonderful mood, June looking better than anyone has a right to look, and many others having a good time.

Wednesday
Early day again when I make a reference call on one of our great interns to the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. It’s always feel good to give a solid recommendation for a hard working intern. Then it was breakfast with my former Hanna-Barbera colleague, Julie Kane-Ritsch who now, as part of the Gotham Group, represents creators like Bob Boyle, Dana Galin, Diane Kredensor, and too many others to mention in a blog post less than 1mm characters long.

Baby Prodigy
I’d met Baby Prodigy creator Barbara Marcus at New York’s BrainCamp two years ago, and she came by the studio to chat on Wednesday.

Ramsey Naito
Afterwards, I zoomed over to Cartoon Network Studios to take Ramsey Naito, head of their long form development, to Starbucks. As we’re getting fired up on the Samurai Jack feature I like to keep her up to date.

Scott Greenberg
The Market City Diner was across the street from Starbucks, and lucky thing too, since that’s where I was to meet Scott Greenberg, Film
Roman
/Starz production president, and our fantastic partner on Wow! Wow! Wubbzy! We never seem to spend enough time together in the office, so this lunch was a good chance to catch up.

Howard Hoffman
Director/artist Howard Hoffman and I have worked together since back in the day starting on MTV and Nickelodeon network IDs. we’re working together again on Ape Escape Cartoons, and it’s always good when he drops by Frederator when I’m in Hollywood.

Bill Burnett
Speaking of back in the day, Bill Burnett, creator of ChalkZone and eight other Oh Yeah! and Random! cartoons came by too. We first worked together at Fred/Alan in New York, and then again at Hanna-Barbera and Frederator. We’re working on a lot of stuff at Next New Networks. We have so many things to talk about, cartoons and more, I won’t bore you with all of them.

Rita Streeet
Finally, it’s a great dinner at Firefly in the Valley. With great friend Rita Street, our Radar Cartoons colleague on the Nicktoons Network Animation Festival, Boneheads, and more.

A little sleep, and Hollywood continues Thursday.

My week in Hollywood.

September 24th, 2007

Nickelodeon Studios

I’ve been traveling across the country for the 15 years I’ve been in the cartoon business, spending a week on the other coast once a month. Invariably the question comes up about what do I do over there, anyhow? So here’s this last week in a nutshell (a day or two at a time; there’s always a lot going on), leaving out the phone calls, emails, and general tinkering around. Whenever I remembered I took a picture.

Monday, September 17:

JetBlue JFK to Burbank, landing about 2:30 PT. After all the airport and rental car fumfering, I head over to Frederator Studios Hollywood HQ at Nickelodeon Studios in Burbank, about 15
minutes away. (We’ve also got space over at Film Roman/Starz,
right across the street from the airport, but I won’t be getting over there this trip.)

I call Will Baron and Austin Buchanan, two graphic designers in Florida who have a cartoon idea, but no one to call. They’re fans of some of our work through the
years and feel we might be able to help. Not sure that I helped, but maybe some of the guidance might keep them from having a head on collision.

5pm, over to the Graciela Hotel, my Burbank home away from home to check in and have drinks (I only drink tea) with Brian Miller, head of production at Cartoon Network and a former colleague from Hanna-Barbera Cartoons and Nickelodeon. We get together a few times a year and it’s always a joy. Brian’s smart and funny, but not smart enough to come work for Frederator.

Dinner was late, around 9 (midnight in my body’s time) and I got together with an old colleague from Turner Broadcasting to catch up on goings on in cable TV.

Tuesday:

Cold Hard Flash logo

Up way early, as usual on the first day of a West Coast trip, call home and catch up on some mail before breakfast with Aaron Simpson, sole proprietor of Cold
Hard Flash
, one of the best
and most popular animation blogs, and a cartoon producer with JibJab and Warner Bros. For a couple of years now we’ve been racking our brains trying to figure out ways to work together,
and today’s meal was no exception. I know we’ll find something.

It’s back to Nickelodeon. I try and poke my head in with some of our colleagues and have a great conversation with Random! Cartoons’ Nick exec Claudia Spinelli, who, unfortunately, I’m not working with at the moment. Butch Hartman, Mark
Taylor, Alison Dexter, Eric Coleman are nowhere to be found. But there are a lot of friendly faces from the last ten years to chat with along the way.

Paul Parducci
Paul Parducci is a writer/director/actor I with back in New York and he comes by every once in a while to fill me in on his web exploits and get a little advice. Right now he’s acting a lot while going to film school, writing his beloved horror movies, and setting himself up to direct some of his scripts.

Howard Green The 2007 Channel Frederator Awards were graced by the presence of John
Lasseter
’s win as Cartoonist of the Year, which wouldn’t
have been possible without The Walt Disney Company’s very kind Howard Green (thanks Rita Street for the intro). It took me eight months to get over to Disney in person to say “Thank you” and wouldn’t you know that Howard would buy me lunch.

Eric Homan

When I got back to my office, in quick succession there was a phone call with Random! (and What A Cartoon!) creator G. Brian Reynolds, the weekly development meeting with Eric Homan and Kevin Kolde, and a feature development meeting with writer/director Doug TenNapel,

Doug TenNapel
who’s writing two pictures to produce with Frederator Films.

Whew! And then we had our last Random! Cartoons shorts screening.

Bob Altshuler R.I.P.

September 22nd, 2007

Columbia Records label 1965

This is a personal remembrance of Bob Altshuler, the father of my close, deep friend Michael. But when he passed away last Monday the impact he had on me and my work came flooding back, and I figured that even though his work life was off point for this blog, his influence wasn’t.

Some background is necessary, since Bob’s infinite skill at his crafts make his personal presence almost untraceable in public records, with not even one picture of him online. As a result of his passions for jazz and blues Bob Altshuler had a front seat influence on the unparalleled American popular culture in the second half of the 20th century. An “exhilarating career” in the music business saw him working in publicity and public relations at Prestige, United Artists, and Atlantic Records before landing at Columbia Records (and eventually at parents CBS and Sony Records) in the mid 60s. The very few things I know he accomplished included giving the best name to one of the best records of one of the best musicians (Sonny Rollins’ “Saxophone Colossus”), writing the liner notes for Booker T. & the MG’s debut LP “Green Onions,” and the impossible feat of securing the world breakthrough moment for Bruce Springsteen by arranging the simultaneous cover stories for this virtually unknown artist on the covers of Time Magazine and Newsweek. Given my personal proclivities of the times, I was always impressed by his engineering the CBS signing of progressive oddities The Soft Machine.

Bob retired in the early 90s but still had one great act towards American culture in him. Our friend David Ramage brokered Bob an introduction to a friend at the Library of Congress. The meeting led to Bob donating his entire, rare, collection of 250,000 jazz and blues 78s to us (as David puts it), to the American people, to be preserved and shared forever. It was an incredible final public moment.

Fillmore East marquee 1969
Bob’s kindnesses towards me naturally started through his son, when in early 1969 he started giving us his weekly tickets to the Fillmore East in New York City. As the top Columbia Records publicity executive I guess his department bought a certain number, and somehow there were always three or four left over for us and our girlfriends. Completely aside from the fact that my convincing my parents to let this Long Island high school kid go into “the city” was a Herculean feat, the Fillmore had earned it’s reputation as one of the two hottest venues for live music in the world (the other being the other Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco) for a damn good reason. Just a quick look at the three act line-ups would tell you why. In this 3000 seat hall, even the lowest billing was an “A” act (I remember catching Albert King, Taj Mahal, The Allman Brothers, all as openers), and for $3.50-$5.50 that was an incredible buy, some would think impossible. Impossible for me, that’s for sure. I couldn’t afford those tickets, but with Bob on my side I got an instant personal education on the culture upheaval that had only been magazine articles for me.

Columbia Records’ legendary studio.
Columbia Records
The next fall I started college at Columbia University in “the City.” I was in pharmacy school (!) but music was always first in my head and instantly Bob was there again. He started inviting me to the showcases his acts had at clubs in New York (like Max’s Kansas City, Cafe Au Go Go, and coolest for a budding recording engineer like me, the converted church that was the legendary 30th Street Studios of Columbia Records. I almost (almost! I said) started to take for granted being in on the world debuts of artists like Weather Report, Nils Lofgren’s Grin, and Tom Waits.

But, as great as seeing all this music was, as much as cultural learning as I was getting, without realizing it, Bob had more in store for me. I was the son and grandson of pharmacists and scientists, and it was clear my life would be going in a scientific path. But, starting when I was eight years old and visited a local radio station, the magic of media and entertainment was tugging me in subterranean ways. One day Michael was visiting me at the college radio station (my civil war was already beginning, though it would end soon with science getting the smackdown) and took me downtown to his Dad’s midtown office at Columbia Records.

Oh wow! A record company. The record company in New York, the world! In the wake of the Beatles pop revolution, the record companies were ground zero for the action. And among the records in my way meager (12 LPs) collection the two labels looming the largest were Capitol (orange and yellow home of the Beatles and the Beach Boys) and Columbia (Bob Dylan, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Sly & the Family Stone). And here I was. It seemed quiet like a chapel or a library (it was a corporate office, after all, something I’d never been in before), but I didn’t really care, because as we were leaving Bob asked his secretary (they weren’t ‘assistants’ yet) to “open the closet.” Two metal doors were unlocked and Michael told me to take anything I liked. Huh? “Whatever you can hold.” I shyly walked out doubling my collection in a quick minute and thought I’d seen God or something. And the best was yet to come.

Columbia Records logo
A few weeks later on a snowy day, I was bored with school and walked back over to the architechtural wonder of CBS’ Black Rock headquarters alone. Not knowing any better I marched up to the zillion security guards and asked for Bob Altshuler; they called up, gave me a pass, and I took the elevator to the fifth floor and his secretary told me he was finishing a meeting and would be right with me. I couldn’t tell you what Bob and I said to each other, but somehow or other he sat me down on the couch in the back of his office and I quietly sat there while Bob did his work. It was ten years before I realized what a ridiculous, and enlightening, experience this was to have. Because for the next four years I went there over and over again and spent hours quietly observing a master at his craft, in a business that hadn’t really existed for me, a fan, ever before. He discussed the inside stories with me, throwing off penetrating analysis only his keen intuition could fathom. I only knew about the records themselves, but it hadn’t really occurred to me that actual humans had anything to do with the whole process, that there were any humans (other than the members in a band) making sure I was in love with the music.

And here I was, the pharmacists’ son, getting instant tutelage on the business I had no idea I was soon going to enter (I started my first company, a record company, the next year). And not just the music business (I met the legend John Hammond in his office, saw original album cover artwork for the first time, and heard negotiations for getting on the cover of Rolling Stone), but corporate business. Hell, he had a secretary, something I’d only seen in a movie.

Over the years, as I’ve been asked 1000 times how I got started in the media business, it always begins with those visits to Bob Altshuler’s office. He never once asked me why I was there, why I thought it was OK to barge in, or suggested that I leave. And he always opened the record cabinet as I left.

It didn’t really end well for us, I was too young, too ungrateful, and, despite the education he gave me, too stupid. When I graduated from college he offered help getting into the record business, where he knew I wanted to go. My pride made me shine him on, I was going to make it without any help from anyone (well, I was sure wrong on that count). He rightfully was put off, offended at the brush off of his sincere generosity. Over the years, as I eventually –slower than I might have– got going in media, we saw each other for seconds at a time, but never really talked until a decade after his retirement. It was my loss.

Bob Altshuler was a tough bird; you had to be to thrive in the cutthroat record industry of the mid-century. But, he recognized music passions like lovers connect across a room, and for me his insights, magnanimities, and patience have resonated for decades. He was an inadvertent mentor, one that wasn’t asked for or contemplated from either direction. But, nonetheless, a mentor who lived up to any definition of the being. I’ve tried to pay it forward for almost 40 years now, and I hope I’m scratching the surface. You’re missed Bob.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 20.

September 16th, 2007

Organisational-Development2
We’d finally gotten the “shorts” program approved by my Turner bosses Scott Sassa and Ted Turner, and convinced the person running Cartoon Network it was actually her idea to produce 48 ‘classic length’ cartoon shorts over two years. If only I was right and the talented people in animation really wanted to make cartoons.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19.

Everyone at Hanna-Barbera Cartoons and Turner Broadcasting who cared fanned out across the globe to spread the word we were serious about making cartoons. Serious in every way. We were making 48 short cartoons over two years in a back-to-the-future kind of unit production way. Each “classic length” (7 minutes) short would debut, by itself, as a stand-alone cartoon on Cartoon Network. Each one would be a product of one cartoonist’s vision (or a self-selected team), produced the way the creator saw it. There was no concern on our part what an eventual series would be “about;” the short had to be great on its own without any allegiance to some preconceived “bible”. We didn’t care what the sitcom trends were, what Nickelodeon was doing, what the sales departments wanted. Even the music would be individually crafted scores, individually tailored to the film at hand, no stock library, pre-fabbed “beds” here. We wouldn’t ‘develop’ them; we wanted to make the cartoon the creator(s) wanted to make, not some executive idea of what they thought kids would like. And we wanted them to be laugh out loud funny.

We wanted cartoons.

Getting original cartoons into the studio and onto television required an army’s worth of work to begin with. Even those who thought this might be a good idea were hard pressed to explain it outside our BS sessions, and since not one person in the world had exactly been waiting for us to show up (at least, not consciously) it was going to require us to explain what we were talking about, explain it again, call back to cajole, convince artists that had never put together one classic cartoon idea from scratch (remember, studios and networks thought cartoons were hopefully passe´, animated sitcoms were where it was at) to put together a pitch storyboard. And, oh yes, the odds, as always in any entertainment project, were we were going to say “No” to their idea.

My closest studio co-conspirator during the run up to the shorts was the studio’s new head of production, Buzz Potamkin. We’d worked together on MTV in New York when he was an independent producer and he’d given me years of Hollywood cartoon biz insight which helped me get started at HB. Buzz could articulate better than I our strategy of re-creating the unit production system that had fueled the golden age, and suggested Larry Huber as the supervising producer for the new shorts unit (a role, among others, he’s successfully navigated through all 138 Hollywood based shorts we’ve produced). Buzz unsuccessfully suggested we make a short with Bill Plympton (it took me 20 years to get smart/brave enough to do it), but brought dozens of other creators to the table. Later, we’ll tell the story of how he convinced Ralph Bakshi to join our group of first-timers.

At Cartoon Network, founding programmer Mike Lazzo rallied his troops behind our efforts. He’d been managing Turner’s cartoons at Superstation TBS and TNT since he was, I don’t know, maybe two years old, and a uniquely brilliant blend of creative thinking and analytical programming. Mike was the person I turned to for inspiration, network thinking, and plain old jawing about cartoons.

The Hanna-Barbera development department (after slashing and pruning of about a dozen staff development writers –an extremely painful task– it was now primarily Jeff Holder, Ellen Cockrill, Margot McDonough, and Dan Smith) had a tough task. They needed to persuade folks that Hanna-Barbera was earnest about giving creative people a chance to do their own work. For decades HB had been a shop where you started or ended your career, but if you had creative ambitions you steered clear. I knew that to reverse the fortunes of the place, to keep Turner from closing the production studio altogether, we had to change that perception. Our shop had to become the place talent was clawing their way into. Hah!

And I was making the development job even harder. I didn’t want “development,” at least in the way they’d been trained, I just wanted them to go out and find hit cartoon creators (much easier typed than done, of course), people who could make a hit and sustain it no matter what happened to the executives or networks who discovered them in the first place. “Development” across television had become a haven for executives who had never produced anything themselves, or had washed out of the dog-eat-dog show biz environment, to take a fairly risk-less path to getting their own ideas out. A D-exec could lean back in their salaried chair and bark dictums (”make it funnier!” was a favorite of mine from an HBO executive) until an exciting, original piece of material resembled nothing more than a piece of product for the junk heap. When instead, they tried to bring me around to their point of view –why were they being paid as ‘development’ execs if their input wasn’t needed– I asked them a couple of simple questions.

“If there’s a successful cartoon series, who deserves the bonus? The creator or the executive?” “Both of us,” was the reply. Fine, and if there’s a failure, who gets fired? That wasn’t a question anyone wanted to answer. I was interested in a clear path back to a successful film, I wanted to know if the credit was “Created by Ray Sturgeon” it didn’t really mean “Created by Ray Sturgeon and a pack of execs.” Besides, I knew the average life of a development executive at studios was actually shorter than the time it took to get a hit series to air. If that was the case, and the exec was partially responsible for success, we were screwed if key members of the creative development worked for the competition by the time of the show. It had always struck me as a bogus approach anyway. William Shakespeare, Leonardo DaVinci, and Duke Ellington, had all made great, popular art with a singular vision. We could do it too. (Please don’t ras me with my artistic comparisons; I aim high.) When it was all said and done, our development folks bought the program, for as long as they were with us anyhow, and walked the walk and talked the talk.
So, anyway, all of us fanned out everywhere we could spreading the message, telling our story. Any way we could, we tried to put our money where our mouth was. We went to schools, we started a high visibility storyboard contest, we talked to union groups. We all had individual meetings with every artist in the studio who would be patient enough not to laugh in our faces. (Not a few came in ready to participate only to find out they wouldn’t be paid to create their storyboard. After all, all across the world entertainment business a creative idea was developed in free time, the creator got a royalty participation in all future success after all; no risk, no reward. But in animation, where it had always been “we have the ideas, you be the hands” it was pretty confusing to a lot of veterans.) We placed stories in the press in the US, Europe, and Asia. We were relentless in looking for talent. After all, we had 48 cartoons to make from a dead stop.

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18. Part 19.

Dinner at [adult swim].

September 12th, 2007

[adult swim] offices: Atlanta, Georgia, 2007

I went to Atlanta to have dinner with my friend Mike Lazzo, founder, runner, emperor, and guru of [adult swim]. I’d never been to their offices/studios before but figured it must be a special place. I snapped a few pix, but because I was talking so much with Mike they’re not so great. Hopefully, they’ll give you a slight idea why it’s the kind of place anyone would love to go to every day .

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts. Part 19.

September 2nd, 2007

The Powerpuff Girls storyboard
Convincing the Turner Broadcasting powers that be that Hanna-Barbera could lead the way in creating cartoon shorts as seeds for hit series took almost two years.

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18.

The question now was how do we actually make cartoons? Real cartoons, not animated sitcoms. Not shows that looked and sounded like cartoons, but were conceived and executed exactly the same way as animated sitcoms.

When I’d first started thinking about using authentic cartoon shorts as springboards for successful animated television series it was a blinding glimpse of the obvious that only the very best creative people could produce the best creative result. At the time, the late 80s, I’d only worked in live action (excepting things like the MTV network IDs) so I thought the answer was finding the best writers. I hadn’t yet heard John K’s Spumco admonition, “If you can’t draw, you can’t write.”

But, once I got into the business, it did strike me as odd that it seemed like the lowest people on the creative totem pole in animation were the artists, the animators, and the directors. Above them were network executives, studio management, development executives, writers, and producers. Jeeez, that made no sense, did it?

History and practicality had come to dictate to the cartoon biz that using writers in the same way as live action industry did. After all, there were more ‘writers’ coming to Hollywood to work than cartoonists, probably on a ratio of 100:1, and starting in the 60s it was easier to recruit trained television writers than re-train cartoonists to story. John K made it a crusade to reverse the tide, and I recalled my conversations with Joe Barbera, Bill Hanna, and Friz Freleng about making the great cartoons that defined the form I realized there was only one way for us to go if we were going to be successful.

There were a few times in the past where I’d try and institute a change in how creative productions were approached, and succeeding required what looked like a complete break with the status quo. Trying to straddle the old and the new had never worked for my groups and it didn’t look like it would work at Hanna-Barbera either. When I tried (with 2 Stupid Dogs and SWAT Kats) the old guard openly rebelled. Clearly a new approach was required.

So, for our new, unnamed, shorts program I laid down the law.

All pitches would be in storyboard form only. No pitch books, no ‘bibles’, no treatments, no episode ’springboards’. I wasn’t interested in what the show/series was going to be, I wanted to know exactly what film the creator was going to make. When we gave a green light, I wanted “development” to be over. We would start the actual production as soon as possible after “Yes.”

We would not take a pitch from a writer who hired an artist to make a storyboard. This project would be proof of (to me) a given. Cartoons were an aritst’s medium. If a writer originated a project, he/she would need to find an animation artist not as an employee but as a partner who was an integrated part of the project. From my perspective I would pay a lot more attention to the body language of the artist than the writer in making my final decision; I’d be looking to the artist as the leader of the project. Was I cutting noses off to spite our faces? Were we in danger of losing the opportunities wonderful writers might bring our way? Probably. Could artists really ‘write’? Who knew? The only thing I absolutely knew for sure was that most ‘writers’ couldn’t ‘write’ either. It’s really hard to create characters that the audience loved, and it didn’t matter a whit to me whether the originator used a pencil with drawings or a word processor. And for our cartoon studio the bias was always going to go to the artist/creator.

Lastly, and probably the most confusing to many, I wanted every final pitch to be in person. I wanted the board to be pinned up on the wall and the creator up in front telling us about the film he/she wanted to make. It was fine for a bunch of executives to read the board in privacy and then discuss it among themselves, but I wanted to see the creator, see the fire (or water) in their eyes, judge for myself exactly how much they cared about making cartoons. If they couldn’t prove it in person, with their film right in front of them, I wasn’t particularly interest. We would only win with the passionate filmmakers who had to make cartoons.

I guess the hard part to come would be in who would decide what cartoons to make? There were a number of interests to satisfy. Our studio development executives thought it was their job but our production executives thought it was theirs, the network wasn’t going to put up with anything it wasn’t completely satisfied with, and certainly there were my corporate financial overseers who were skeptical of the whole thing. And hey, there was me!

(More next time.)

Blog History of Frederator’s original cartoon shorts.
Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6. Part 7. Part 8. Part 9. Part 10. Part 11. Part 12. Part 13. Part 14. Part 15. Part 16. Part 17. Part 18.